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Friday, November 26, 2021

Bonus Basketball in the Garden ends with a Knicks win

When usually gruesome Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau took the podium on Wednesday night, he did something out of character. He opened his news conference with a smile.

He just sat — or rather, stood — through a double-overtime thriller to start the season against the Boston Celtics, a game that featured 11 major changes and 10 ties. It was the first time the Knicks’ home opener went into double overtime.

“The good thing is that, at the end of the day, we got the win,” Thibodeau said of the Knicks’ 138-134 exit from the win.

It was only a regular-season game, but it felt like the basketball equivalent of the Iliad. Both sides had star performances, such as Jaylen Brown’s career-high 46 points for the Celtics after a recent bout with Covid-19, and Julius Randall’s 35 points from where he took the Knicks last season. Was. Just before half-time on opening night, the Gardens crowd at Randall’s performance “MVP!” Was shouting. Then.

The Celtics center was extreme basketball, like Robert Williams III, who scored 16 points on just five shots, and his Knicks counterpart, Mitchell Robinson, was doing nearly the same thing at the other end.

And there was downright dastardly basketball, as the Knicks made a defensive miscue to an impossible (and uncontested) 3-pointer off Celtics guard Marcus Smart, which tied the score on the regulation buzzer and sent the game to overtime.

Not wanting to advance, the Celtics missed a wide open dunk and layup that could have sealed the game in the second overtime.

Both teams were without key players: the Celtics without Josh Richardson and Al Horford, and the Knicks without Taj Gibson and Nerlens Noel. And while there aren’t many conclusions that can be drawn from just one game, especially the first one, Wednesday night clarified that the new-look Knicks has some options they didn’t have last season.

Last year, the Knicks had difficulty taking the pressure off Randall, particularly shooting the ball from the perimeter to make room for him late in the games. The signing of 28-year-old Evan Fournier in his 10th NBA season has given the Knicks a human release valve.

Fournier scored six 3-pointers on Wednesday night, including one in the final minute of another overtime to give the Knicks the lead for good. He finished with 32 points, much to the relief of a grateful Randall. He was another valuable option at crunchtime to account for.

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“He came super clutch in those overtimes,” Randley said. “Hit some big shots. So I just wanted to keep looking for him. But Ivan is great, man. He’s really smart. We talked after the game. There are things we think we can do better and work.” Can do. His IQ is too high.”

The Knicks also saw good signs from Obie Toppin, who came off the bench with 14 points in the 28 minutes he’s played in a game so far in his career. The Knicks were 4 points better with Toppin on the floor, and their strong play allowed the team to play short and move Randall to center position. This gave the Knicks a lineup that was more nimble.

“Obie is really learning to be an NBA player,” Fournier said. “From what I saw from him last year, he is really getting better and better. He understands how to manipulate himself.”

This is how Toppin made his presence felt, which is likely to encourage Thibodeau to make him a permanent part of the rotation. He regularly keeps the Celtics’ defense on his heels through sheer energy and floor runs throughout the sprint to create opportunities for himself. Toppin, now in his second season, missed three of his three pointers and is not yet a reliable shooter, but on Wednesday he made enough smart cuts to compensate.

“Juice tells me when I’m on the court with him, if I see he has a rebound, take off,” Toppin said, referring to Randall. “That’s what I do best. I run floors. Every chance I get, I’m getting out on the open floor.

It will be useful to the Knicks, who were in the middle of the road last year in motion. Toppin’s efforts were rewarded.

“Man, it’s wonderful to hear your name chanting in the garden,” said Toppin. “It’s an incredible experience that I can’t even explain. It’s something you have to live with.”

It was the kind of regular-season environment that wasn’t possible during the pandemic, even though it was only one game starting a season-long slog.

But in a competitive Eastern Conference against a division opponent, a game can be the difference between a home court advantage and not, as the Knicks found themselves to their advantage last year. With high aspirations, every victory counts.

“I don’t think we escaped,” Randley said. “We made some mental mistakes, mistakes or whatever. At the end of the day, we found a way to win a game.”

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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